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Next-Generation Global Hawk Makes Maiden Flight

The Northrop Grumman-built Block 20 RQ-4 represents a significant increase in capability over the Block 10 configuration-it carries up to 3,000 pounds of internal payload and operates with two-and-a-half times the power of its predecessor.
by Staff Writers
San Diego (SPX) Apr 11, 2007
The first RQ-4 Block 20 Global Hawk unmanned aerial system successfully completed its first flight on March 1, adding to an already impressive list of program accomplishments. Designated AF-8, the advanced capability aircraft flew from Northrop Grumman's manufacturing facility in Palmdale, Calif., to the Birk Flight Test Center at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.

"The Block 20 Global Hawk performed beautifully," said Randy Brown, Global Hawk Program Director with the U.S. Air Force's 303rd Aeronautical Systems Group at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, following the flight. "What a great start for the flight test program, and a testament to the people of Northrop Grumman who have worked so hard to make this happen."

The air vehicle took to the skies at approximately 6:58 a.m. PST, climbing to 32,000 feet and landing at 8:31 a.m. PST before a crowd of cheering Air Force officials and Northrop Grumman employees. Two F-16s served as chase aircraft.

"The first flight of the Block 20 Global Hawk is a momentous event because, for the first time, we are seeing the debut of an aircraft with all the next-generation attributes and advanced capabilities - including a 15-foot-wider wingspan, a redesigned and strengthened fuselage and a 3,000-pound internal payload capacity - combined in an impressive package," said Gary Ervin, sector vice president for Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems sector. "With its unmatched intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, the Global Hawk is the most advanced and most capable high altitude long endurance (HALE) air vehicle in the world."

Jerry Madigan, Northrop Grumman vice president of HALE systems, noted that the aircraft has continued to meet or exceed expectations during its assembly and pre-flight checkouts. "The Block 20 variants will enter service as one of the most thoroughly tested and proven autonomous unmanned aerial system in history, completely rewriting the book on unmanned aircraft assembly, precision and quality," said Madigan.

The first Block 20 aircraft is the 17th Global Hawk air vehicle to be built. Northrop Grumman produced the first seven air vehicles under the advanced concept technology demonstration phase of the program. Nine Block 10 aircraft have been produced, including the two aircraft supporting the global war on terrorism and two U.S. Navy aircraft operated under the Global Hawk Maritime Demonstration program. Global Hawk has been deployed to the operational theater four times since 2001 and has logged more than 9,000 flight hours during combat missions.

The Global Hawk system flies at altitudes up to 65,000 feet and can survey vast geographic regions with pinpoint accuracy. Once mission parameters are programmed into Global Hawk, the vehicle can take off, fly, return and land autonomously. It can be re-tasked at a moment's notice to meet the immediate intelligence needs of battlefield commanders.

Following a final series of operational testing and evaluation at Edwards AFB, the Block 20 will be delivered to the Air Force's 9th Reconnaissance Wing at Beale Air Force Base near Sacramento, Calif.

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New Global Hawk Fuselage Exceeds US Air Force Strength And Safety Requirements
San Diego CA (SPX) Apr 10, 2007
Northrop Grumman Corporation achieved another milestone when it successfully completed three significant fuselage and empennage strength tests of the RQ-4 Block 20 Global Hawk unmanned aerial reconnaissance system. The tests, conducted at subcontractor Innovative Engineering Solutions' facility in Murrieta, Calif., surpassed the U.S. Air Force's stringent strength and safety requirements.

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